This is my series of blogs as I have some great stories to tell when I reminisce about my Journeyman Pro career in Triathlon. I am going to tell these as fun stories but hopefully can tie in a lesson for each one. I was adventurous and fearless during most of my career and did a lot of things that certainly (in hindsight) did not contribute to better performance or longevity but they were all great experiences and helped me understand training better.
Lesson 1 - Compliments of the Great Jurgen Zack
After having spent a summer in Germany racing a few circuits and some bundesliga events I somehow managed to get an Elite spot on the Timex Team based in the USA. It wasn’t a big deal but it included a lot of free and discounted gear so I jumped for the opportunity and flew to SanDiego to train during that winter and Spring. At that time SanDiego was a hot spot for winter training (now of course most go to Boulder, Colorado) and a lot of top germans would spend some months there in the spring. I had a mutual friend with the Legend Jurgen Zack who was one the uber bikers of the day and had multiple podiums and ‘first off the bike’s’ at the IM World champs in Kona under his belt.
As soon as I bumped into him I asked him about training sessions and he invited me to join the next one. I was able to hang and not be a nuisance so he let me know where to meet for another, and the one after that and soon enough I was training with him and some top Brazillians on a regular basis. For me, it was a new dimension in training from what I had done - there 18km tempo runs, 5-6hr bike rides, 5km swim sessions and weekly hours were well over 30. I was amazed how I managed and felt stronger as we went and learned a tonne watching how relaxed he was outside of training and he even asked me to join for evening beverages a few times.
A few weeks later on I had another friend fly over for a few weeks of training so I did some sessions with him as well to show off my new fitness level. One day we bumped into Jurgen at a popular trail run course and Felix and I were hammering around there like it was race day. Afterwards he asked me if I wasn’t racing the following week at the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside which he knew I was, of course, as I’d been talking about it non-stop. Then he said he hoped I hadn’t left my legs on the run course that day.
I was pretty taken back after watching him smash out session after session for several weeks and then criticize me for training too hard. Obviously he knew something about tapering and being fresh for important races. I ended up having a very good race finishing 5th overall but he spoke with me afterwards and said ‘You might have made the podium if you were a little fresher’. I didn’t take that lesson with me at the time but often wish I had because there were many other races over the years where I went in tired and came out disappointed.
Training hard when you have the conditions to do so is great but learning to recover timely and properly can propel you to another level.
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